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Sunday, 09 November 2014 07:06

Can We Walk Away From Our Cars to Save the Earth?

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2014.11.9.Talen.BF (Photo: Simon Forsyth / Flickr)


During the six weeks since the "biggest climate march in history," the CO2 emissions have entered the atmosphere from American cars at two trillion pounds a week. Not only that, Republicans overtook the US Senate. The first one is an odorless gas and the second one farts in suits; they both damage the atmosphere.

Actually, the first Peoples Climate March was wonderful. Our joyous carnavale for the Earth gave us such a release. So many of us felt from the march that finally our climate change issue was expressed openly by as many people as care about it. The hard work in making giant puppets and banners and the declarations on signs – created intense partnerships that could be key in a future climate march that has more impact in the world.

The motive for Peoples Climate March was to change perceptions of the scale of the climate movement, in the eyes of our fossil-fueled politicians and in our own eyes, too. The feeling that we are powerful and on the rise – this is key to our faith that we can change this gone-wrong system. However, the no-politics-please soft center of the march leaves us after a couple months with a very big selfie and a lot of fading pixels.

And let's get basic. Our sore feet didn't stop any driving. By six o'clock the night of the march Gotham was full of cars and trucks, honking and belching CO2.

And on that Sunday, unknown to most of us, a party of the super wealthy up in the penthouses of the Times Square Sheraton watched us marching far below in the canyons of Manhattan. It was the Clinton Global Initiative, called by some "Davos West." Among the thousands of CEO's and national leaders was Hugh Grant, of Monsanto, the king of pesticides and killer of the honey bee. We probably entertained them, dancing and shouting with our signs down on 59th Street and 6th Avenue. The leaders of the Society of the Spectacle easily absorb our counter-spectacles.

The neoliberal investor class, gathered around the Clinton and Gates families was probably not impacted by the climate march, and the United Nations climate summit did not seem very influenced by us either, and reports are pessimistic about next year's Paris conference. Perception schmerception. The fossil fuel rich have no reason to fear us. We have not threatened them. But we could threaten them by getting out of our cars!

The "transportation sector" has not slowed down even with bankruptcies and throat-cutting air bags and sudden electrical shut-offs at high speeds. We are still driving 250 million vehicles in the US, increasing the miles and number of vehicles every year, with the knowledge that we are killing ourselves. Then again, we put the poison into the Earth as individuals. It is a personal decision to keep driving. So there is an intriguing opening here – the fact that driving could be stopped as a wave of personal decisions.

The scientists tell us to cut our emissions radically. Cars as dangerous climate degraders cannot be addressed by any form of gradualism, just as climate change cannot be confronted in commercial American politics by recreational protesting. A ten million person climate march could not shift perceptions enough to defeat the car. Americans must be confronted by civil disobedience that stops cars. It can be musical and sexy and fun disobedience – but a revolution does not have a parade permit.

Either we stop cars or the Earth will. Next year, what if three or four hundred thousand people returned to New York in their gas guzzlers, and filled Manhattan with cars so that the island was utterly jammed with stationary vehicles. Leave emergency lanes open, but basically stop the fossil fuel economy for a while. Drive to New York and take public transportation home. We will shuttle veggie-powered buses back and forth.

At the end of the day, our climate march was too predictable. Now we need something more outlandish; like taking down white racist Big Cotton, like taking down the Berlin Wall. In a revolution, we all become artists as we let ourselves trust experiences that are counter-intuitive, even foolish.

How many of us would leave our car and walk away? We need to force the turning point. March away from our cars. Now that is a big, happy climate march.